September 21, 2020 13:08
One 40-year-old office worker in Seoul decided not to visit his home town during the Chuseok holiday following government recommendations to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Imagine his astonishment, then, when he found out that the government has decided to allow flights to and from Wuhan, China to resume. "The government told citizens to stay home during the nation's biggest holiday but has decided to allow flights to Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic," he said. "I just don't get it."
Emotional blackmail is the government's weapon of choice. One town in Boseong, South Jeolla Province has hung huge banners on the approach that read, "My son, my daughter in law, it's all right if you don't visit us this Chuseok!" Regional governments recommended that people hire professionals to mow the grass on their ancestral graves and maybe watch them on Zoom.
Then the announcement came last week that T'way Air will resume weekly flights between Incheon and Wuhan. Earlier this year, the government was also criticized for letting flights from China continue even as entire cities there had been barricaded in their homes because of the virulent epidemic.
The first flight from Wuhan arrived at Incheon on Sept. 17, when COVID-19 infections topped 30 million around the world, while one in four infections in Korea were untraceable. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency was warning that the battle against the virus was tantamount to "World War III." But Vice Minister of Health and Welfare Kim Gang-lip said the previous day, "The rate of coronavirus infections in China has stabilized, and not many infected people are arriving from China."
He claimed the decision to resume flights was made on "scientific grounds" and the KDCA "did not object." But two days later, Yoon Tae-ho, a senior official at the ministry said, "We made the decision because of the large amount of trade that takes place with China." This sparked complaints that the government is sacrificing the safety of Koreans for economic benefits from China. At the same time the public was getting fed up after days of a fresh lockdown that banned restaurants in the greater Seoul area from serving customers after 9 p.m. The government has warned there could be yet another lockdown on Sept. 28.
Last week, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun patted himself on the back by saying the government did the right thing by not banning visitors from China at the early stage of the pandemic. He posted a message on his Facebook page telling Koreans to use him as an excuse not to visit their families over Chuseok. The office worker said, "The government has been saying that effective quarantine efforts depend on the public, but it’s just passing the buck."
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